Environmental Studies Professor Spence Earns National Diversity Award

By Dustin Chandler / 06/06/2024 College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, Natural Resources and Environmental Design

Porché Spence, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the environmental studies program in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, has received the Ecological Society of America's 2024 Commitment to Human Diversity in Ecology Award.

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (June 6, 2024) – A North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University professor of environmental studies has been honored by the Ecological Society of America for her dedication to diversity.

Porché Spence, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences (CAES) Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Design, has received the society’s 2024 Commitment to Human Diversity in Ecology Award.

The ESA is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of professional ecologists. Its Commitment to Human Diversity in Ecology Award recognizes an individual’s long-standing contributions toward increasing the diversity of future ecologists through mentoring, teaching or outreach.

Spence said she was “excited and honored” to receive the award.

“My passion is to inspire, mentor and teach students pursuing careers in ecology and STEM fields who come from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds, especially students of color from historically underrepresented communities,” she said. “I have been fortunate to have excellent mentors who inspire, guide and encourage me. It is my pleasure to pass that wisdom on to my students, and to provide opportunities and support so that they will be prepared for a lasting career in ecology and STEM.”

Spence has been an N.C. A&T faculty member since 2020. She received her B.S. in environmental science and master’s degree in earth science from North Carolina Central University and her Ph.D. in soil science from North Carolina State University, and has served in faculty positions in both institutions.

From 2019 to 2023, Spence served as co-director of the Scholars for Conservation Leadership Program at N.C. State, which provides career development opportunities for underrepresented studentsShe also co-developed a high school summer program to expose students of color to forest ecology, and a low-cost experiential learning curriculum for elementary and middle schools, the Food, Energy, Water Learning Module Workbooks. Students in the high school program participated in research projects and presented their findings at conferences. A group of these students is preparing a manuscript for a peer-reviewed publication.

Spence is a member of committees and working groups such as the ESA’s Four-Dimensional Ecology Education Framework assessment working group and the National Science Foundation’s Undergraduate Network for Increasing Diversity of Ecologists.

“Dr. Spence is an inspiring example of an educator and researcher who enriches her students’ academic and professional journeys,” said Gregory Goins, Ph.D., CAES associate dean for research. “Mentorship plays a crucial role in shaping the next generation of scientists and fostering diversity, and Dr. Spence is making an impact with her efforts to diversify the ecological science field.”

Spence will be recognized at a ceremony at the society’s annual meeting in Long Beach, California in August.

“The Ecological Society of America is immensely proud to honor this year’s distinguished awardees,” said President Shahid Naeem. “Their contributions across various domains — be it through pioneering research, outstanding service or dedicated teaching — embody the spirit of this society and the ecological community. Congratulations to all for advancing the frontiers of ecological science.”

Media Contact Information: dlchandler@ncat.edu

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